Authors: Rhonda Marks
“You know I love you,” Elise said as she rose and embraced her. “It’ll be alright.”
Tears she’d been holding back let loose and Nitika’s shoulders shook as she cried in her friend’s arms. What was she going to do?
was at a loss. He’d tried every trick in the book to get Nitika to speak to him, from calling her cell, texting her every night to sitting directly across Tesia’s hospital bed and looking her in the eye. Nothing from her other than a run-down of how their daughter was faring. Something had to give or else.
Or else what?
He damn sure wasn’t going anyplace until Tesia was out of the woods. Over the past several weeks, he’d grown to love his little Love Bug. Yeah, he’d missed out on the first five years, but he’d be damned if he wouldn’t be part of the rest of her life.
He’d even cut way back on work, to the despair of his boss. But things were calm on the job: all
of his clients were happy and he hadn’t been assigned any new accounts. It was hard throttling back, but it was worth it to be with Tesia and Nitika.
Which brought him back to thoughts of Nitika.
There’d been no discussion of the next step, after Tesia recovered. He had a feeling with the way things were between them now, she wanted him to disappear. Not. Going. To. Happen. When he fell in love, it was forever.
He had a long talk last week with his brother, Antonio, and disclosed his situation. To say he was surprised was an understatement. He’d never told anyone of his visits to the sperm bank, so to confess that he had a daughter rendered his usual verbose brother speechless.
“So what are your plans?” Antonio asked.
“Not sure yet.
We need to concentrate on Tesia’s complete recovery.”
Which means you haven’t discussed custody with the mother yet.”
Leave it to Perry Mason, Jr. to hit the nail square on its head. “No, and with the mood she’s in right now, I don’t think it’s a good move.”
“How’s my niece doing?”
A lump the size of a small island lodged in his throat, making him pause before answering. “She’s making it. A little weaker than when I
first met her, though. Chemo took something out of her, and the radiation was not a walk in the park. But she’s my little fighter.”
“You know I’m praying for her, bro.” He paused and Javier knew that a question was coming. “So, have you given any thought to telling Mom and Dad about Tesia?”
Javier sucked in some major air and dropped his head. The first people he wanted to let know about Tesia were his parents, but he decided that it would only complicate matters more. Antonio was temporarily living in Paris, so he felt safe disclosing his situation to him. It’s not like he could just appear at the hospital. But his parents would probably burn up the highway getting to Pittsburgh if they knew they had a granddaughter, one that was seriously ill. Nitika had a hard enough problem dealing with him. “Um, no. I want to wait until Tesia recovers.”
“First, I don’t know how all this is going to play out.” He took a deep breath and continued. “I have no doubts that she will kick leukemia’s ass. Love Bug is the most ferocious fighter I’ve ever seen. But I just don’t want to stress Nitika out more than she already is.”
“They’re going to be beyond pissed when you finally fess up, you know.
Our Portugal relatives will be hiding you out so you can get away from Mama.”
“I know, but that’s my decision. And don’t you even think about going behind my back to tell them or I’ll be on the first thing smoking out to Paris, you hear?”
Antonio brought up a lot of legitimate questions
for which he had no answers. He needed to talk with Nitika today and no was not an option.
Needing a little time to prepare herself for the meeting with the oncologist, a shaking Nitika slipped into the ladies room and sat in a chair at the vanity table. She leaned forward and allowed her head to drop onto her lap. She filled her lungs over and over again, slowly letting the air whoosh out of her nose. Only after doing this for several minutes did she dare lift her upper body and let out one last lungful of air. Now she was ready to head back to Tesia’s room and Javier. Maybe.
and radiation were complete, so today the oncologist would probably want to talk to them about the next step in her treatment, the stem cell transplant. She was both elated thinking about what was to come next, but at the same time scared shitless. What ifs flew around her mind like a colony of blind bats. She quickly gave her head a hard shake and rose to her feet. Tesia was going to make a complete recovery and come home with her soon. She’d accept no other option.
As she stepped out of the restroom door, Nitika literally ran into a wall of muscle and almost lost her balance. Strong, large hands grabbed onto her arms and kept her from tipping over. Her gaze slowly rose and she found herself staring into Javier’s bemused face. “Thanks,” she stammered while trying to extricate herself from his grip. But he held onto her, and pulled her out of the way of a group of nurses walking down the hall.
“You can let go now,” she said through gritted teeth.
“I know I can,” he replied smoothly. “But if I do you’ll scamper away. I need to talk with you.”
To her consternation, he began to drag her into a nearby waiting room and toward an unoccupied corner.
“We need to get to Tesia,” she pleaded as he deposited her into a chair opposite his. “Whatever yo
u want to talk about can wait—”
“I just checked on her and she’s still asleep. I want to tell Tesia I’m her father.”
“We’ve been through this, Javier,” she whispered angrily, all the while looking around to make sure no one overheard them. “And the answer is still no.”
He ran his hand down his face and eyed her with a dangerous glint in his eyes. “And I say it’s time. Before she undergoes this procedure, I want her to know her daddy is doing everything he can do to help her.”
“You’re being selfish,” she spat out.
“I beg to differ,” he tossed back, his voice rising and making others in the room t
urn in their direction. “Tell me why you don’t want me to tell her now. Straight up.”
Nitika looked around to make sure no one was within earshot and let out a
ragged sigh. This was so not the conversation she wanted to have today, but if it was the only way for him to get off her back, so be it.
In a shaky voice she began to talk. “
I told you a little about my parents, how they’re both dead.” He took her hand and it surprisingly calmed her down enough to continue talking.
“My father was the poster child of what some called a company man. He lived and eventually died for his job. Left home most days before I woke up and returned home long after I went to bed.
I can’t remember him ever attending any of my school events or a single dance recital. Don’t get me wrong, he was a great provider. I went without nothing. A closet full of clothes and shoes. I was the envy of my classmates. But I would have given everything away just to have some time with him.
“And my poor mom.
It wasn’t until I was about eight or so that I really saw how his absence affected her. She drank from the time she got up in the morning until bedtime. Always had a glass in her hand. Always buzzed or outright drunk.”
“I’m so sorry.”
Nitika waved off his sympathy and plowed on. “It all caught up with her when I was ten. Her luck ran out and she died in a one car crash. At the funeral, I remember people coming up to my father and saying it was a good thing I wasn’t in the car with her. Sometimes I wished I had been. Would have been easier.”
“I disagree, Nitika.”
“I haven’t finished,” she said with a wry smile. “Dad was so loving the weeks following her death, helping me get ready for school then picking me up every afternoon. Then things began to revert to the same old, same old. He hired a nanny and it was just like when Mom was alive. Never saw him.
“Eventually, I started spending more and more time at Elise’s house.”
“Your best friend?”
I’ve known her since first grade and love her like a sister. Her family welcomed me with open arms. Dad signed an agreement basically giving them custody. That’s where I spent my teen years.”
“What about your dad?”
“He died when I was sixteen
. Massive heart attack at his desk.” She gave an awkward laugh. “When they cleaned out his desk, his co-workers found a brochure for Disney World. He was actually planning to take me to the place I’d dreamed of going but died before he could do so. How ironic!
“So do you understand why I’m hesitant to have to tell Tesia you’re her father?”
“I’m not him, Nitika. Look at how I’ve been by her side since I found out about her condition.”
Nitika opened her mouth to respond, but he held up a hand. “Let me finish. I understand how you’re feeling. A man you loved and looked up to disappointed you. I get that. But I can promise you that I’d never do that to Tesia. I’ve fallen in love with her over these past few weeks. She’s my heart.”
“But what if—”
“There are no ifs, Nitika. I won’t abandon her, or you.”
She again stared at Javier, trying to discern if he was telling her the truth. After all this was over and Tesia was well, would he go back to burying himself in work? Her baby was so vulnerable right now. But what if he really did what he professed and was in it for the long haul? Staring into his mesmerizing, hazel eyes she said a prayer and gave him a short nod of her head. His smile caused her blood to heat up, warming her all over her body.
“Don’t make me regret this, Javier, or I’ll hunt you down.”
He gave her a quick kiss on the lips and stood, bringing her to her feet too. “You won’t, I promise. Now let’s go see our daughter.”
Javier sat next to Tesia’s hospital bed and trained his eyes on her sleeping form. His heart raced, along with his mind.
. His beautiful daughter. And today he’d be able to actually tell her he was her daddy. But what words would he use? How do you tell a kid you’ve been seeing for weeks that you’re not mommy’s friend, but really her daddy?
He looked across th
e bed and watched Nitika hold their daughter’s hand. She appeared to be as nervous as he by the way she kept wiping away tears. For a second he wanted to give into her initial request to wait to talk with Tesia, but quickly shook off that idea. His daughter needed to know her daddy was there for her, and always would be.
Suddenly, Tesia began to stir and both parents sat up straight in their chairs. It took several minutes for her to completely awaken and greeted them with a beautiful smile.
“Hi, Mommy.” She turned her head and smiled in his direction. “And Javier is here, too.”
“Yes I am, sweetheart,” he responded with his own tenuous smile. “Did you have a good sleep?”
Her little arms stretched over her head and she let out a loud yawn. “I’ll take that as a yes,” Javier laughed.
“How are you feeling, baby? Do you want something?” Nitika asked, smoothing the side of her daughter’s face.
“Can I have an ice cream cone?” Tesia asked with an impish look on her face.
“I wish you could, baby, but not yet.”
“Yes, soon.” Nitika hesitantly glanced at him and gave him a slight nod. He guessed this was his signal to begin to talk.
“Um, Tesia, honey, I need to tell you something, okay?”
“Okay,” she repeated.
He took her left hand in his and cleared his throat. Here goes. “Well, I haven’t been, I mean, I’m not just a friend of your mommy’s.”
“No sweetie.” He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. Just say it, Javier. “I’m your daddy.”
He watched as a series of emotions flitted across that beautiful little face. With a frown turning down her po
uty lips, she stared at him then over to her mother.
“You’re my daddy?” Her lower lip began to tremble and Nitika shot him a look that would scare a normal man. At this point he was more concerned about his daughter.
“Where have you been?”
“It’s a long story, Tesia, and your mom and I will tell you one day. But for now, I wanted you to know, alright?”
Tesia’s eyebrows knitted together as it looked like she was processing what she’d been told. “Are you going to always be my daddy?” she asked in a tiny voice.
Javier’s breath hitched and he tightened his grip on her hand. Leaning forward so his face was a few inches from her, he first kissed her on the tip of her nose then allowed his forehead to meet hers. “There is nothing that could keep me from being here for you now and forever, you hear?”
“I hear, Javier, I mean—”
she glanced over to her mother before continuing, “Daddy.”
Javier’s insides warmed up and tears suddenly
stung the back of his eyes at that one word. Daddy. “Can you excuse me?” Not wanting to embarrass himself in front of Nitika and Tesia, he fled into the hallway and around the corner. Luckily no one was around as he quickly wiped away the tears with the back of his hand. It took a while for him to gain control of his emotions and return inside the room. Mother and daughter were now watching television, still holding hands.